— Young Adult Education

Talking to Emery Lord About Feminism, Flawed Characters & ‘Open Road Summer'

Sometimes it’s hard for me to write about the books I really, truly love. It’s easy to calmly discuss the great parts of a book I like, but when it comes to love…well, I basically just want to draw a heart around the book’s cover, push a copy into your hands, and call it a day. What I’m trying to say is that if I knew more about Photoshop, this column would just be hearts all over the cover of Emery Lord’s Open Road Summer. Alas, I can’t edit photos, so you’ll have to deal with my words.

Open Road Summer has all the things I never even knew I wanted out of a YA romance, like:

1. A Taylor-Swift-like character
2. A bad girl with a heart of gold
3. A tour bus
4. An amazing BFF relationship
5. An equally amazing swoonworthy guy

The back cover says that Open Road Summer is “Taylor Swift meets Sarah Dessen,” and I can’t think of a better way to describe it (or a more ringing endorsement). Reagan, the aforementioned bad girl, wants to get as far away from her problems as possible. Luckily, her BFF Lilah Montgomery (also known as Dee) is a country superstar who just so happens to be going on a 24-city tour. Reagan is looking forward to a summer alone with Dee and her millions of fans, but then Dee’s (very talented and very cute) new opening act Matt Finch shows up.

There’s a lot of kissing, some great BFF bonding, some fighting, and did I mention the kissing? This is the best YA romance I’ve read in a long time, and I read a lot of YA romances. Reagan is a little self-destructive and angry sometimes, but it’s hard not to root for her. And while, yeah, this is a romance, the relationship between Dee and Reagan is just as important.

Emery Lord was nice enough to not only deal with my fangirling, but to answer my nosy questions about her book. She’s a super smart lady who cares about feminism, flawed characters, and cheesecake. You know, the important things in life. Obviously, you’re all going to love her as much as I do.

Q: Since a lot of HelloGiggles readers are in high school, can you let us know what you were like back then?

A: Um, I actually loved high school. I mean, yes, I had my heart smashed to smithereens a few times and thought my parents were trying to ruin my life, but I loved my friends to pieces and did things like band, choir and theater, which I loved. The downside to that was…I was really kind of in my own little suburban bubble. I didn’t think much past my own experiences or even past high school. I love my hometown, but the outside world has been good for me 🙂

Q: There’s a lot of music in Open Road Summer, and Lilah Montgomery is a very Taylor Swift-like character. Did you listen to music when you were writing? Are you a country music fan? And, most importantly, what is your favorite Taylor Swift song?

A: I listen to SO much music while writing. My headphones are a constant in my life, though I tend more toward folk stuff than country. While writing ORS, though, the country I listened to was largely by a songwriter named Nicolle Galyon, as inspiration for Dee’s music (specifically Beautiful Day, New Emmylou, and Dance Hall), plus a few Mindy Smith, Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift tracks. My favorite Taylor track!?! So hard! I’m a huge fan of her new record, but I have to go with Mine. I listened to it on loop for periods of time while writing Open Road Summer, so it has sentimental value now 🙂 So, like, Mine AND the entire Red album and every song ever, final answer.

Q: I know you’re a feminist (because we follow each other on Twitter, not because I’m stalking you). What does feminism mean to you? How does your feminism influence your writing?

A: I never identified as a feminist as a teen (please see my answer to the first question, haha) because I thought feminism meant man-hating or something. Now, feminism is one of the vital lenses that I see the world through. Not only does it mean I believe in the equality of women/all people…but that I care a lot about examining how girls are being treated. Feminism is integral to writing for me and part of why I do it. My main goal is to write fully-formed, flawed girls. It’s hard for me to watch female characters who are struggling criticized as “whiny” or those who cry as “dramatic.” C’mon! They’re human. And in YA, they’re teens! So, I’m going to try to keep writing complicated girls as a means toward what I think is the most important thing: empathy.

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